Fox News on June 28, 2012, reported that soldiers will soon be able to scale any vertical surface without slipping, just like Spider-Man — with help from cutting-edge technology rather than a spider bite. Excerpts below from the article by Barrie Allison:

Without the use of ropes, ladders, or glue, the tech makes it possible to climb a wall carrying a full combat load. News reports earlier this month touted one such technology from Utah State University, which relies on suction cups to ascend sheer walls.

Several other programs seek to enable Spidey powers in warfighters, many inspired by the humble gecko: The tiny, 5-ounce lizard can scale a wall carrying 9 pounds of weight — a whopping 18 times its body weight.

BAE System’s Advanced Technology Center has one of the top programs and it closely mimics the gecko. The center has succeeded in creating a material that is a sort of artificial version of the bottom of the gecko’s foot.

Their material has polymer layers comprised of thousands of microscopic stalks with splayed tips like the gecko hairs.

When the material’s ability to stick to glass was tested, the result was a pull-off force of 3,000 kg per square meter.

Put BAE’s material on the palms of human hands and it’s strong enough to support a person’s weight. If you went bigger and used a T-shirt made of the material, it could hold the weight of a family car.

—DARPA (short for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has an extremely cool Z-Man program meant to develop new climbing aids that are biologically inspired by geckos as well as by spiders and small animals. One of the Z-Man results has been the “Geckskin ,” developed at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with partial funding by DARPA.

DARPA’s efforts are also concentrated on nano-adhesives; the agency’s goal this year is to demonstrate a soldier with operationally relevant equipment at 250 pounds climbing a 25-foot tall wall. Next year the goal the research agency aims to hand over prototypes of the nanoadhesive to the initial Service users.
According to DARPA’s budget, $20 million this year and next will be invested into the program.


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